Trivial Posts #16: Road Signs, Cover Versions, and Morticia’s Safe Word

What I’ve Been Up To

Lots of focus on Apple this week as the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are due for release. I had a look at the update rates of iOS to Android over on Forbes (iOS is at least 100 times faster but there are structural issues) as well as the regular digest of news from Apple and Android.

I also had a great time at the Next Radio conference, and have come back with a list of ideas both for my own podcasting and presentation behind the microphone, but also for community radio here in Edinburgh. Maybe you can here the difference in the latest Eurovision podcast with news on the continent’s favourite singing contest?

Right then, on with this week’s interesting, unusual, intriguing, and exciting, links!

Turn Around

What is it like to design something so ubiquitous as a road sign? Margaret Calvert did just that for the Highway Code in the UK over fifty years ago, and sees her early design work every day.

Margaret Calvert finds driving down the motorway an infuriating experience. It’s not the tailgaters or the traffic that exasperates the 79-year-old designer, but the signs. “It’s been a nightmare all my life,” she laughs, only half-joking. “I am always plagued by the sloppiness of something not being done well – the spacing being wrong, for instance.”

The Woman Who Invented Britian’s Road Signs

One Of These Songs Is Not The Same

How do you make money if you sing cover versions of popular songs? One way in the 21st century is to exploit the weakness of search engines in streaming services such as Spotify. The Verge’s Lizzie Plaugic looks at the intriguing world of Spotify cover songs, how they boost an artist’s profile, and if they can lead to a break-out original performance.

But cover songs aren’t just a way to prove your commitment to novelty or vary the setlist of live shows anymore. On platforms like Spotify, playing riffs on popular songs can lead to a far larger audience than recording original material — all you need is a song people are already searching for. Any popular artist should do — Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, John Legend — but timing is important. The song should be fresh, but with enough mainstream appeal that large numbers of people will be looking for it. Then, with a little creative track name optimization and a halfway decent recording, you could be looking at a potentially huge audience.

The Numbers Game Behind Spotify Cover Songs

The Knights Of Psychadelic Satin

Quick, write down the big psychedelia bands from the United Kingdom… Now, did you include The Moody Blues? Rob Chapman lays out the arguments to include the Birmingham band:

Which is strange when you consider that the Moody Blues outlaw credentials were rock solid. They were directly implicated in the notorious three-part News of the World exposé in February 1967 on drug-taking in pop. They hung out with Jimi Hendrix, and in that Isle of Wight documentary, Justin Hayward admits to taking LSD a dozen or so times. None of the other members are exactly coy about their influences either. And how could they be when they paid blatant and unambiguous homage to the high priest of LSD, Timothy Leary, in flautist Ray Thomas’s Legend of a Mind? Keyboard player Mike Pinder’s (Thinking is) The Best Way to Travel on the In Search of a Lost Chord album is one of the great “show me the universe and get me home for tea” acid songs, and that quintet of late 60s albums is liberally peppered with memorable psychedelic moments.

Psychedelia’s Forgotten Heroes

The ‘Model’ Public Broadcaster

The renewal of the BBC’s charter is going to be a key point in the culture not just in the United Kingdom, it will have an impact around the world. Which means the joint letter from the Nordic public broadcasters in support of the BBC is an interesting external viewpoint that should’t be forgotten in the arguments about public device, value for money, ratings chasing, and every other critique of the Beeb:

The idea of public service broadcasting was born in Britain. Free from political and commercial interests, its main pillar is independence and the idea of putting citizens first. Like the BBC in Britain, we Nordic public service broadcasters rank among the most trusted media companies in our own countries, thanks to our independence. The BBC’s independence comes from its institutional history and culture as well as its regulatory structure, including how remit and funding decisions are made. Changes to the system should serve to strengthen the independence of the broadcaster, not weaken it. This is especially important in the case of the UK, as the British model is often viewed as a model for how the media should be organised in new democracies.

EBU’s Nordic Members write letter supporting BBC as “model” public broadcaster

The Wonderful New Sound Of Morning Radio… Ish

Anyone following UK radio will have seen the launch of Radio X (neé XFM) and the return of Chris Moyles to the Breakfast Show timeslot. Matt Deegan looks at the structure of the show, how much Moyles is ‘getting away with’ compared to the normally breakfast show host, and wonders how long it can continue on a commercial station.

All that was left was the entertainment – the speech content and the music. There were 4 songs in the 7am hour and 8am hour, 1 in the first half hour and six in the 9am hour. I imagine this is a little lighter than a normal show, but then they did have an exceptional guest in Noel Gallagher.

The entertainment works as it’s high quality, but also because it’s supported by having discarded so much clutter and the show’s fortunate by having shorting ad breaks.

Clearly Moyles is in a privileged position when discussing his show format with his bosses, but to me it really highlights the importance of flow and minimising clutter. If you’re doing breakfast, now really is a perfect time to review clutter and ask if all your show elements are entirely necessary and whether they’re delivered in the most efficient way.

Moyles and the Clutter Battle

Fifty Shades Of Morticia And Gomez

Put aside EL James, there’s a far better depiction on the silver screen.

The Addams constantly become enrapt with each other, getting sidetracked by each other’s allure, recalling their first meeting fondly, waltzing presumably numerous times a day. Morticia’s first lines of the movie, as the ever-present ghostly light with seemingly no source illuminates her eyes, describe Gomez’s sexual behaviour the night before: “Last night you were unhinged. You were like some desperate howling demon. You frightened me.” The camera zooms closer while she adds: “Do it again.” That’s right: the very first lines between the couple aren’t just a rare example of a man and woman who have been married for some time who can actually stand to be around each other. These lines, and the couple themselves, are an example of consensual BDSM.

How The Addams Family Does BDSM Right

This Week’s Long Read: Project Fear

An actual book this week, as Joe Pike looks at the mess of a campaign that was ‘Better Together’, released in time for the one-year anniversary of everyone in Scotland being asked to draw a wee Scottish saltire next to the word ‘Yes’ or the word ‘No’.

Joe Pike delves deep into the nail-biting back-room operations of the referendum’s No campaign, examining the striking shift in Scottish political attitudes and its effect on the most unpredictable election in a generation. Based on over fifty private interviews with those at the heart of the action, this exclusive account explores what really went on behind closed doors as Better Together kept a kingdom united, but left a country divided.

Project Fear: How an Unlikely Alliance Left a Kingdom United but a Country Divided

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.